Virtual Fahrenheit 451 – No Part of History Is Good Enough

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“Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…”.

In Ray Bradbury’s prescient 1953 novel, the government made the past illegal. Guy Montag is a “fireman” employed to burn the possessions of those who read outlawed books.  They even had book-sniffing robots to find homes with hidden books.

When Guy becomes despondent over the meaning of his work, his fire chief explains that, “over the course of several decades, people embraced new media (in this case, film, and television), sports, and a quickening pace of life.  Books were ruthlessly abridged or degraded to accommodate a short attention span, while minority groups protested over the controversial, outdated content perceived to be found in literature (yet comic books, trade papers, and sex magazines were allowed to stay, as those fed into the population’s want for mindless entertainment).”  People would watch the “parlor walls” (large televisions) with visiting friends instead of conversation.

We are now in the throes of a virtual Fahrenheit 451.  The need for burning books has become moot with the advent of ubiquitous, mesmerizing “screens.”  Evidence:

  1. Generations of high school graduates who show increasing ignorance, apathy, and illiteracy; they are ill-equipped for self-sufficiency, yet they excel at World of Warcraft, and Grand Theft Auto.
  2. People without enough money for food, have cellphones, and giant high-definition televisions, with cable. They read little and text a lot.  Everything is Facebook, selfies, videos, and soon virtual reality.
  3. Minority groups are protesting the controversial facts of our history. For example, the Fairfax County, Virginia school board just renamed my high school, J.E.B. Stuart High School, Justice High School.  (I can just imagine my next class reunion.)  Why?  Because he was an officer in the Confederate army.  Does anyone believe the Confederacy won the war?  Does anyone not see the tragedy of 600,000 lives lost as a lesson in pain?  Why remove the reminders?

What is next?  Will we remove the Civil War from our libraries?  Will museums take down every work of art with elements of that part of our nation’s history?  Will schools bury the history of slavery and the people responsible?

When will we hold accountable the Africans who sold tens of millions of other African as slaves to the entire world? https://goo.gl/EXnyGT

Were they not even more responsible for the misery of those slaves and their progeny?

Ignoring or censoring history will neither change the past, nor the consequences of what happened.  It will leave us less aware of the truth; a type of cultural dementia.  We must resist becoming a world of virtual Fahrenheit 451.

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Swamp Warfare Consumes – Nothing Good Happens When Nothing Happens

When politicians get personal, at best, nothing happens, at worst, nothing good happens.  We are witnessing, and suffering the slings and arrows of Alinsky-esque, Pyrrhic battles among the old guards of both parties of the “swamp” and the “Neo-Alt-Populists.”

What earnest, stalwart citizens expect is honest disagreement and negotiation to get the nation’s business done.  Instead we get messy, nasty, underhanded, duplicitous, deceitful, street fights by leaders of the traditional, two-party Congress and political elite intended to sabotage and neutralize the populist agenda.  Instead, we drown in oceans of pure sewage, a woeful waste of time, money, and reputation.

Trump started this ad hominem warfare with schoolyard nicknames for his opponents and constant public comments on everyone and everything.  But the swamp knows how to respond in kind.  Undermining, demeaning, and slandering one another absorbs enormous energy and batters the already dwindling confidence of the public.  What can we do with the barrage of bickering and dirty laundry?

I assign a giant portion of blame to the partisan, self-serving, faux journalists who constantly, gleefully, nakedly, shamelessly, and blatantly editorialize the mayhem.  The growing competition for notoriety risks America’s reputation and wastes our resources and influence.   Adolescent gossip has become the fodder for our herd of addicted commentators, who flood every form of information outlet, 24/7, with waves of “breaking news.”

I propose a ceasefire and a truce on public criticism, starting with the President.  Take your bar fights out back; do not make us witness the ugly, monkey-dance posturing, angry barbs, and impotent jabs.  Come back when you are done mauling each other, and you have made up with some workable compromise.  We are tired of seeing how no sausage is made.  We want to see and hear mature, decent people, doing what we elected them to do, with decorum and dignity.

Intelligence Could Not Be More Artificial – Screen Addiction Steals Our Reality

Our pre-American forbears led lives of subsistence; work all day, every day for enough food to survive; prepare and eat the food; collapse into sleep; awake to the same exhausting challenges.  This work ethic and focus are a major part of what colonists brought to the New World, driven by the chance to own the land they work, hunt and fish the wilds about them, and live free of the crushing burdens of near-slavery as serfs, peasants, and servants.  They could not dream of a time that was not filled with all the efforts of pulling and putting together the pieces of life’s necessities.

Just meeting today’s needs was never enough. They could not afford to face the seasons unprepared. They had to be alert, to anticipate, prepare, learn, and plan for the cycles and dangers of nature; they had to be ready for the seasons, timing, preparing, sowing, harvesting, preserving, and storing of food: crops, fish, game, fruits; cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood, clothing, tools, weapons; sickness, injury, childbirth; shelter, stewardship of farm animals, and on, and on.

Except for a few times, when nature did not allow work, people, including children, worked, ate, and slept.  Church was a mandatory break for the work-cycle.  Not only did weekly Sunday services provide “leisure” time for peaceful, renewing, and moral guidance, but it also allowed for physical regeneration through rest; it fostered hygiene and discipline; it fostered family and community “leisure” and play.

This kind of all-absorbing farm life continued for most Americans until technology began its ascent.  Within a dozen decades, we expanded, invented, and produced, new tools, factories, mines, roads, bridges, harbors, waterways, and railroads.  Farmers and ranchers produced enough food to allow them to sell it to non-farmers, who earned the money in towns and cities.

“Money-crops” such as cotton, tobacco, wool, hides, and furs, fed the textile mills, the leather tanneries, and tobacconists; cash was used for things the farmer could not produce easily, such as cloth, dye, needles, pins, shoes, glass, pots, pans, jars, jugs, clocks, medicines, spices, firearms, gunpowder, swords, axes, shovels, scythes, harnesses, chains, hinges, nails, buttons, buckles, candles, lamps, and things we needed then that we no longer remember.

Non-farm work had start and stop times.  Workers arrived at a certain time, worked and ate at certain times, and left at certain times.  That meant the rest of the day was up to the workers to use as they chose.  Holidays became expected days of rest.  Merchants tailored shop hours to worker schedules, which gave them down time as well.

The Great Depression and World War II accelerated three trends:  migration to cities, training in trades, and advanced education.

They also introduced and promoted the first virtual technologies, telephone, phonographs, movies, radio, and television.  Costs, broadcast time and reception areas limited the time people spent talking, listening, and watching.  But the attraction was clearly evident.  People would plan their days and evenings around their favorite news and entertainment programs.  Trips to the movies were considered treats.

The return of prosperity brought expanding demand for all the virtual technologies.  One limit on these technologies was location: phonographs, telephones, radios, movies, and televisions were locations people had to attend to use.  One exception for police and fire fighters:  two-way radios mounted in vehicles.  World War II saw the advent of “walkie-talkies,” the conceptual and technical precursors of modern cellphones.

Car radios, and the transistor radios released the listener from having to find a radio, to having a radio with them

The 1950’s, and 60’s introduced computers to American Business.  Once again, computers were locations, entombed in rarefied environments defended by physical security, and complete ignorance of the general populous.

The 1980’s advent of “personal computers;” which were portable, with some effort.  All that was missing was connecting computers through telephone systems – the Internet, and connecting radios to telephones – cellular phones.  The catalyst for the connectivity we enjoy today was the cellphone, which erased any connection between phones and locations, and made people the locations for telephone numbers.

Televisions were limited by the stations that broadcast in their reception area.  Three major national TV networks evolved, connected by satellite to the world.  Connecting televisions directly to satellites, coaxial cables, and now the Internet, brought us out of “network-tv” into the 24/7 “cable-tv” era.

Once cellphones connected to the Internet and television, where we watch movies, we arrived to today, where the distinctions have almost completely blurred.  Likewise have our senses of reality.

Now, “friends” are not people we know, “social media” is anonymous and often anti-social.  “Gamers” give a whole new meaning to “WoW,” spending days lashed to their computers, dispensing with bathroom breaks, installing Mountain Dew, refrigerators, and cutting pizza delivery slots in their doors.

We already have an entire generation living in basements.  What is next?  Maybe evolution will soon give our species extended narrow thumbs for “Texting,” and dimmer judgement for “Sexting.”  Maybe someday, all our ogling will be “Googling.” Is the “Zombie Apocalypse” upon us with the living “undead?”  I wonder if Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence will converge into caskets, from which we never need emerge?  Will we live to see the rise of VARZI?

Sails or Sea Anchors? – Who Do We Need as Our National Leaders?

What happens when what always works does not?  What happens to leaders who are blinded by the momentum of power from past successes?  Equally fair, what happens to leaders who are thrust into power by overreactions to the establishment?  Answer:  nothing good.

A maelstrom of entropy is looming over us, the world’s only superpower.  Quixotic tilting against objectified “evil-minded devils” fills our bandwidths.  Our national cortisol has spiked to threatening levels.  Our unity as Americans has disappeared, deflated by our own in-fighting.  Mean-spirited feuding has become our national sport.

Why, in less than two decades, have we Americans let our powerful family disintegrate from compromise and cooperation into rabid rabble-rousing, closely paralleling the vicious personal attacks, and snipes that preceded the Civil War?  Has such hyperbolic, gladiatorial nastiness become the minimum standard for political success?  Has the anonymity of virtual communications emboldened us to self-righteously attack and degrade people we do not know?

The winds of political change are blowing furiously in all directions; sails of power are becoming sea anchors of defeat; populist cannons are blasting broadside the galleons of the establishment; long-time admirals of state are too far from the shores of reconciliation to avoid going down with ships of hubris.

Who is ready to transform our thinking, our attitudes, and our beliefs about one another?  Who is ready to turn our swords into plowshares, to make peace with our greatness, and to make room for other ideas?  Who is prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans and salute.  Isn’t anyone else tired of this war?

 

 

 

America’s Legacy – Can We Remember on Memorial Day?

Yes, it is Memorial Day weekend, and for many Americans it is another holiday, albeit with precursors to the 4th of July, American flags, and hot dogs.  It seems that we have developed short attention spans, given the acceleration of information, the associated decline in verity, the expansion of scope, the collapse of objectivity, the explosion of assertions, and the evaporation of examination.

This is my 71st Memorial Day; I was born two weeks after Japan surrendered, ending World War II.  Sixty to eighty million died in that horror, about three percent of the over two billion people who inhabited the earth in 1940.

Twenty to twenty-five million military deaths included about five million prisoners of war. Some estimates show thirty-five million civilians died as a direct result of the war, and another twenty million died from disease and starvation.  No one has tallied the deaths and disabilities of the aftermath.  The mental scars darkened the lives of the survivors for generations.

More than four hundred thousand Americans died in that war, with another six hundred seventy thousand wounded.  In other words, one million Americans dead or damaged.

Then, only five years later, America engaged in the Korean “Conflict.”  Thirty-six thousand killed, one hundred three thousand wounded.

Eleven years passed before our official entrance into the Vietnam war.  Fifty-eight thousand killed, one hundred fifty-three thousand wounded.  My brother and I are fortunate, surviving, Vietnam veterans.  We both have friends on the lists of dead and wounded.  My wife’s little brother is one of the fifty-eight thousand.

Our casualties in the Middle East are not final, but six or seven thousand have died, nearly fifty thousand have been wounded.

This is the evidence of our courage and strength, despite the critics of those wars.  Please take a few minutes to remember the grim violence, the constant terror, the pain, agony, suffering, and sacrifice of those men and women, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

I still cry.

Is the FBI One Person? – A New Director Will Carry the Baton

I am no staff opinion writer for the Washington Post, but all the squabble over Comey’s firing dazzles me.  Was Comey the only person investigating?  Who is running the store now?  Nobody?  Isn’t the FBI still investigating?  The FBI is not one person, is it?

Will the new director or deputy director stop the investigation?  At best, changing directors or putting his deputy in charge is a very temporary delay.  Won’t Comey’s backup or replacement take the reins?  I am no lawyer, but passing the baton is not the same as stopping the race.

Doesn’t an obstruction block the way?  I do not see anything stopping.  Isn’t the point of all these inquiries to find the facts?  Don’t we really want the results?

As to Sessions’ actions, why don’t we see what he was asked regarding Mr. Comey?  Just as Comey was not the FBI, Comey’s dismissal was not dismissal of the FBI investigation.

Re the recusal:  No attorney general could operate within the critics’ broad theory that Sessions’ recusal of matters relating to the investigation, includes matters relating to anyone in the FBI.  I guess the Justice Department could add all sorts of knotty issues to the newly appointed special counsel’s agenda, conjoining the various conspiracy theories.  That way Robert Mueller’s name can fill the newsways for a while.

What I detect is a strong appetite for the process, per se.  The news media have a voracious appetite for spectacular “content.”  What good are results versus chances to publicly speculate, ruminate, accuse, and read minds?  Who could pass up  opportunities to castigate, lambast, and assassinate national reputations? – oh dear, the excitement, my heart, I think I’ve got the “vapuz.”

Civil War in America – Dueling Suicide Vests

The political enemies of President Trump are weakening our nation, and helping the enemies of the USA with their attacks on him.  The latest example is the accusation that the president leaked super-secret, military intelligence to the Russians, about Islamic State plans.  This was a privileged White House meeting with the Russian ambassador and our ISIS experts, held in one of our most secure “contained” facilities.

Within hours, the information discussed in this meeting,  is published by the icons of liberal media.  The Washington Post and its cousin, The New York Times claim that president Trum revealed damaging, top-secret information to the Russians.  Later, the news sources compounded the problem, by claiming Isreal was the source of the secrets.

In their lust to skewer the president, these two news mongers received classified information from one or more traitors. (I know no clearer label.)

Publishing the information exposed and “verified” the secret for everyone in the world.  The attribution to Isreal was a gift for the Russians, and anyone else in the Middle East who might be interested.

The press attack was calculated to produce maximum political harm to the president, but, what did it do for our country?  Who intentionally “weaponized” the secret?

Those who were there in the room, including National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, say that neither source, nor method of obtaining the intelligence was compromised.

I do not know the “truth,” but I do know that all the “optics” help Russian intelligence. There is information and there is knowledge.  Information without verification might have been questioned, doubted, or ignored; now the Post and the Times have elevated it to likely or verified.

The intensity of breast-beating accusations by the Democrats, and the malevalent media headlines have given Russia, Turkey, and other countries cause to question the security of any discussions between President Trump and their emissaries.

The point is, the Democrats should be equally vigilant protectors of our national security; it seems the media, that should have a giant stake in keeping us safe, would rather “throw us under the bus,” if it gives them any way to undermine President Trump.  They have taken the president at his word when he called them “enemies.”

Make no mistake, people on both sides of this escalating battle seem equally, and rabidly eager for Pyrrhic victories.  They somehow believe that ripping apart their political rivals strengthens them, and justifies weakening our position in the world.  Any illusions of American unity and strength crumble under this suicidal bloodlust.  The same virus has infected our citizens.  Do we really feel these family feuds strengthen us somehow?  Does righteous, rancorous infighting raise our national pride, or elevate our international prestige?

Besides, what are the possible consequences of these virulent attacks on our president?  Even if the Democrats managed to impeach President Trump, succeed or fail, our country would suffer mightily.

When two opponents don suicide vests, who wins?